Will Kirby Smart’s scheduling gamble pay off?

“I do think they’re one of the top four teams in the country but I didn’t think they were going to get in the playoff with two losses,” Saban said. “So I voted the teams that I thought had the best chance to get in, but I do think after playing Georgia they were one of the best four teams in the country.”Nick Saban

As we’ve all heard over the past few weeks, Georgia has taken the bold step of significantly upgrading its non-conference scheduling, adding a number of home and home series with P5 powerhouse programs like Texas, Oklahoma and Clemson.  Smart gave three reasons for the move when asked.  It’s one of those three I’ll explore in this post.

“We’re not running from Power 5s,” Smart said. “(The selection committee) has proven that later games in the year have more impact on who makes the Playoff, so if you can get a Power 5 team late in your schedule, I’m talking the last three or four weeks, you’ve got a chance to spike and send yourself into that conversation.”

As evidenced by Saban’s comment above, that’s a gamble on Smart’s part.  One I applaud him for taking, but a gamble nevertheless.  There’s no reason to think that the selection committee is ready to embrace that approach, particularly given the strategic whining we’ve heard from certain conferences that have whiffed lately on populating the CFP semi-finals field.

But there are other wrinkles that may complicate the equation Smart projects.  One is that there are P5 non-conference opponents such as the ones Georgia is scheduling, and then there are P5 non-conference opponents such as the ones Tennessee is scheduling.

The Vols will host BYU this season before traveling to Provo, Utah, in 2023. They’ll travel to Oklahoma in 2020 before hosting the Sooners in 2024. Tennessee will host Pittsburgh in 2021 and travel there in 2022. And UT will play at Nebraska in 2026 before hosting the Huskers the following season.

Of course, nobody can predict the future, so maybe BYU has turned itself into a top ten program by the time UT travels to Utah.  Or, maybe not.  But you can be sure Fulmer will be pitching how his football program’s scheduling has taken a step towards the level that Georgia’s had should the moment prove convenient for doing so.  It may not be a convincing argument, but it may also be an argument that serves to muddy the waters for a two-loss Dawgs team making a case for the CFP field.

Then, there’s the way the other half rolls, as Seth Emerson explains ($$):

The SEC is splitting into two tiers when it comes to scheduling: The upper-tier teams that are ramping up their schedules in expectations of being in playoff contention, and the rest of the league, which while no one would admit it publicly would consider a playoff run a bonus, and instead schedules so that it can win as many games as possible.

It’s about half and half. The traditionally stronger programs are pursuing bigger games, with the playoff at least partially in mind, but also jaded fan bases that are less likely to show up for Murray State. But the less-tradition-laden programs are less apt to pursue those games because wins are at a premium: When you talk to Kentucky coach Mark Stoops about perhaps ramping up his school’s schedule, the reticence is palpable.

“We’ve had our hands full with Louisville,” Stoops said. “They’ve had a very good team. So with the SEC schedule and with Louisville …”

Louisville!  The thing is the media (and I include a certain 800-pound rodent in that reference) loves itself an underdog.  You don’t have to look any farther back than last season to recall how Georgia’s trip to then ninth-ranked Kentucky was pumped up as a major head-to-head meeting with serious postseason implications.  That talk quickly evaporated after Georgia won by seventeen, of course, but Cinderella is going to be given every benefit of the doubt should the situation arise.

That all being said, I do think that Kirby’s gamble lessens considerably over time, because we all know, despite Bill Hancock’s protestations to the contrary, the CFP is going to expand to eight teams.  The irony there is, in an expanded field, nobody will blink twice with a two-loss team in the mix, but at least when it happens, we’ll have a better home schedule to enjoy.  Let’s just hope that Kirby’s scheduling aggressiveness doesn’t come to bite him in the ass before then.

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28 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Georgia Football

28 responses to “Will Kirby Smart’s scheduling gamble pay off?

  1. It would be so Georgia to be the first SEC champion not to make the field of 4 because of an OOC road loss combined with a conference loss. Maybe I’m down about Georgia sports right now after watching our guys get bounced this weekend by an F$U team that limped into the tournament.

    Kirby is right. The field is going to move to 8 because Mickey wants it. My only concern will be how will those 2 wildcards (a Gof5 team is going to get a spot) be selected. Throw in ND and you potentially have years where 1 non-champion gets in.

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    • SpellDawg

      Yeah, that sucked, big big-time. Never underestimate the power of emotion, FSU’s coach retiring (as the winningest coach ever in D1 baseball) after this season has them balling-out to send him off right.

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    • Greg

      that is what I am afraid of….It’s a gamble, hope it pays off. Don’t think anyone has ever accused Kirby not having any “coconuts”. He’s still building, definitely will probably help him on the recruiting trail for now….but you got to win’em.

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  2. Lazy Grad

    So… cough do our (UGA collective) lonely eyes look to Geoff “404/Waffle House” Collins to “improve” GA Tech?

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  3. I’ve had the same feeling for a while, now. I love the idea of scheduling up, but the day an 11-2 team gets in over a 12-1 team is the day I’ll believe it can happen.

    The media (and those in the room choosing) will view the loss column as the most important column 99% of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dawg in Austin

    I feel the same way, but re your last point I also noticed that we backloaded the schedule for no real reason when OU could have been scheduled earlier, and I assume the same for other teams. The more drastic upgrade (3 P5 teams + SEC) seems to be timed for the end of the 4 team playoff.

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  5. Greg

    ” Let’s just hope that Kirby’s scheduling aggressiveness doesn’t come to bite him in the ass.

    Just focus on winning the SEC, the rest will take care of itself.

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  6. Brandon M

    I can’t believe people are actually complaining about this scheduling. The defeatist mindset runs deep in our fanbase. Would you really rather spend your Saturday relaxing watching the Dawgs torch the little sisters of the poor or go toe to toe with Texas, Oklahoma, or Clemson in prime time?

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    • Macallanlover

      Agree. Being against seeing more quality football is a strange thing to understand when it comes from those who consider themselves football fans. I thin they have lost touch with why they became CFB fans in the first place.

      O also disagree with the Senator’s take on no evidence that the Committee would choose a 2 loss team. I recall Auburn being a virtual lock in 2017 had they been able to beat UGA and win the SEC. Certainly not the norm, nor should it be, but quality wins are always appreciated, just has to be in context with other options.

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      • O also disagree with the Senator’s take on no evidence that the Committee would choose a 2 loss team. I recall Auburn being a virtual lock in 2017 had they been able to beat UGA and win the SEC.

        Except they di’int.

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        • But had we lost to the Barn and they finished 11-2 having beaten UGA x2 and Bama in a 4 week span you know as well as I do they have been in over Slowhio St

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          • Dude, neither you nor I know that.

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            • Macallanlover

              OK, no one can say that 100% but this looks to be a ridiculous position given their ranking going in, a win over a highly rated UGA team, plus conference champs. This isn’t a bunch of sports writers will an agenda. Auburn would have had two wins over UGA, and one over Bama in the last 4 weeks and you think they might have dropped them and kept Bama in? Pretty stubborn on that, and lonely position I am sure.

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              • Mac, do you remember what happened in the BCS standings coming down the stretch in 2007? They were manipulated in the last week to drop Georgia out of contention, even though the Dawgs hadn’t lost at season’s end.

                You have no more of an idea what goes on behind closed doors when the selection committee does its work than I do. To think that nobody has an agenda contra to yours is pretty arrogant.

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    • Bigshot

      A loss to OU, UT, or Clemson will do you no good. People will see it and conclude UGA can’t play with the Big Boys.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I love the scheduling upgrade. The question is whether the committee will agree if we’re a 2-loss conference champion in a 4-team playoff. It hurt anOSU two years ago when they lost to OU and got beat at Iowa.

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  7. W Cobb Dawg

    Kirby’s plan is to become such a powerhouse the sec will be an annual cakewalk. So we’ll need some top opponents to beef up the schedule.

    I’m saying that in jest, but then again Kirby certainly plans for the long haul and no detail is too small…

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  8. FlyingPeakDawg

    Kirby sees that throwing an annual SEC game to retain the team’s focus is too risky. Upgrading with P5 opponents allows him to get the win and solidify our top ranking or suffer a loss but re-energize the team for the SEC title run. 3D chess master.

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  9. Bigshot

    Be prepared for a big bite out of that buttocks.

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  10. Larry Breece

    #1) Why schedule games 10,11,12 years out. We can all; I do a lot of criticizing McGoofy but actually Kirbs first opened the door to the have’s and kind shut out the have nots with the summer speaking tours. Those were held all over the place Augusta, Asheville, NC, Macon, Savannah, Warner Robins. Now those engagements are far and few between and by selection only. Given the speaker was not Richt all the time but there were smaller gatherings for the humble folks that donated enough to get to see the Dawgs. I assume this scheduling is just another way of securing the Big Money donors to keep investing in the future by making the season package more alluring too bring in their business Buds.
    I realize the recruiting gig sizzles through the summer and every day Kirbs or an assistant is in some cities looking after 5* kids. I do have concerns that the recruiting base has gone nation wide. While some of Georgia kids seem to be last offers after finding out a California kid played us. ( Note: I hope Pryor that committed, who UGA didn’t offer comes back and bites us )
    #2) I just hope while we look ahead to these power 5 games that UTk, Aubarn, Dores, and Cantuck don’t fill their rosters with Georgia boys and Dawg whip us. If that happens you won’t have to stand in line at concessions, bathrooms or worry to much about parking.

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  11. Larry Breece

    #3) It’d be like all the McGill folks bet their $100,000 on Maximum Security. There is a Country House around every corner.

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  12. Alabama has easy ass schedules. Alabama has NCs. Same for Clemson. It’s a combo of not having losses or one loss and being able to stay extremely healthy. Playing a big game late just means more people are beat up. As a football fan I think it’s great but as a formula to a national championship it’s not the best method. I never see the media talking about how Alabama’s schedule is so weak. I just see them preseason number one stay there all year

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  13. Mayor

    It’s not that Georgia plays cupcakes that bothers me. It’s the quality of the cupcake.Western Kentucky. Murray State. Geez. In VD’s day the cupcakes were Oregon State, Baylor (a weak PAC 12 program back then) , Cal (another weak PAC 12 program back then), bottom level ACC teams —teams like that. Upgrade the cupcake quality and you kill two birds with one stone. Play P5 teams but teams that we can beat no sweat.

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